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Cyrus Farivar @cfarivar
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Hey friends! It’s #openingday! I’m taking the day off work to catch the @Athletics today!

Last year I did a story for @ebyesterday about baseball history in #Oakland! (…)

Then I was invited to talk about it at @NerdNiteEB! Here’s the quick Twitter version.
The @Athletics and owner @DaveKaval have made a big push that the team is #RootedInOakland. After all, #Oakland is about to lose the @warriors and the @RAIDERS within a few years.
There’s more than just the @Athletics who play ball in #Oakland, however. If anyone is really in touch with local baseball roots, it’s the Oakland Colonels. They’re an amateur @BAVBB team playing under 1886 rules.
The Oakland Colonels were a real team back in 1890, with dope short brimmed caps. And those sweaters!
The first recorded baseball game in Oakland dates back to 1866. The Live Oaks Base Ball Club, comprised of students from the College of California (now @UCBerkeley) defeated a team from City College of San Francisco. The Live Oaks declined SF’s offer for a rematch.
After beating SF 2 of 3 in “a gentleman’s game,” played at the Town of Clinton (now, Eastlake, roughly near La Estrellita restaurant today), Oakland invited SF to dinner afterwards.
A few teams came and went, including the Oakland Dudes.
Eventually the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League debuted in 1903.
The Oakland Oaks accidentally broke the baseball color barrier in 1916 when they hired Jimmy Claxton (left), believing he was Native American. After the team found out he was actually a black American-Canadian, he was fired after a week. He lives on, captured in this card.
Baseball teams in Oakland, like everywhere else in America, were segregated. But there were local Asian-American teams, including the Wa Sung Athletic Club of Oakland Chinatown. They barnstormed all over California.
In 1932, the PCL’s Sacramento Solons hired a Japanese-American pitcher, Kenso Nushida, who was playing local ball.

The Oaks signed Oakland local pitcher Al Bowen (of Wa Sung) to go up against Nushida as a publicity stunt. (2 Asian-American pitchers!)…
But Bowen wasn’t marketed under his real name. Instead, he was assigned his Chinese name: Lee Gum Hong.
Around the same time as Wa Sung and the Oaks were playing, there were other local teams too. The Berkeley Pelicans, for instance, were a local black team. Standing at far right is a local Oakland pitcher named Lionel “Lefty” Wilson, wearing a University of California sweater.
The Pelicans and Wa Sung played in the “Berkeley Colored League,” believed to be the only integrated baseball league west of the Mississippi. (Teams were largely not integrated.)

But in 1934, Bowen played briefly for the Pelicans during a state baseball tournament.
It’s hard to underscore how unusual this was for the time. A “Chinese” pitcher on a Black baseball team? At a time when all of America was segregated, and redlining enforced housing segregation, even in Oakland, this was incredible. But somehow, in the 1930s Bay Area, it worked.
The Berkeley Colored League eventually was rebranded as the Berkeley International League in 1935.

There were even Latino teams, including the Tijuana Grill and the Aztec Stars.
Wa Sung disbanded in 1938, as many of the ballplayers didn’t have time for baseball as war was brewing. It’s not clear when exactly the Berkeley International League disbanded, but it was probably around the same time, or perhaps even in the early 40s.
After WWII, in 1946, a group of local entrepreneurs created the West Coast Baseball Association, also known as the West Coast Negro League. It consisted of the LA White Sox, Portland Rosebuds, San Diego Tigers, San Francisco Sea Lions, Seattle Steelheads, and the Oakland Larks.
One of the Larks’ top players was none other than Lionel “Lefty” Wilson (not pictured here).
When most people think of the “classic” Negro League, they think of Kansas City Monarchs and the Birmingham Black Barons, among other teams. That Negro League was founded in 1920. But none of those teams played in the Western US.
Given the success of the Negro League in other parts of the country, its Bay Area organizers thought that the West Coast Negro League could succeed because there weren’t any other black teams around.
Eagle-eyes fans will note an ad for the Monarch Cab Company. Its founder played for the legendary Negro League Team, the Kansas City Monarchs.
The West Coast Negro League ended about six weeks after it began (Oakland had the best record). It seemed to not make enough money. Teams began touring in other parts of the country, playing against whoever they could find.
Once the Larks disbanded, Wilson decided to pursue a career in the law. He attended Hastings Law School in 1947, and was the only black student from Oakland, and 1 of 13 black students in the entire class.
Straight out of law school, in 1950, Wilson became chairman of the Alameda County NAACP.

A decade later, he was the first black judge in Alameda County. Eventually, he was elected as Oakland’s first black mayor, a position he held for 14 years.
In 1955, the Oakland Oaks moved away to Vancouver, which meant that Oakland was without a team for about 13 years—until the Kansas City Athletics moved in.

They were renamed the Oakland A’s.


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